Monday, April 23, 2012

Private über alles

In trying to make sense of the polarization on Bowen that was evident during the National Park debate, the Cape Roger Curtis saga and the recent election it has become clear to me that the political split on the island is not left vs right or developer vs environmentalist but rather public vs private.

So islanders, what do you make of this dichotomy. There are times and places when the public interest is clearly supreme - clean drinking water comes to mind. And there are times when the private interest is supreme such as what colour I can paint my house.

But what about at the margins of public and private? For instance your stance in the proposed piers at the Cape will probably depend on whether you see it as an issue of a property owner exercising a right to have a private dock in front of their land. Or whether you think the public access and use of the foreshore should frame the decision.

Likewise with ferry marshaling. Would it be fair to say that those who are pushing for a loop road feel an affinity for the private development of the Cove whereas those who are not in favour instead see the public interest in the parkland and wildlife as primary?

What do you make of this split? And would you be willing to engage in dialogue across these two world views?


  1. Yes, it was an election of public vs private but more than that it was an election of fear -- fear of loss of wild places and public amenities versus fear of government and loss of private property rights (and hence property values). These fears are driven by diametrically opposed worldviews. In an age when even 'lefties' fear government (thanks to Harper, Homeland Security etc.) all it takes is for a small subset of the 'publics' to put their fear of government ahead of their fear of loss of public places and public amenities, and you get the result we did last year.

    Are we ready to engage in a dialogue about the fears that drive our decisions? I'm not so sure. I'm not even sure we're ready to acknowledge that that is what is driving our decisions. And even if we can have this open and honest dialogue, I'm not sure it will do more than entrench our fears and the worldviews they produce. When it's about facts, dialogue can work. When it's about deep-seated emotions, I'm not convinced it can.

  2. Yeah Dave, I'm not unsympathetic to that view, and your analysis is good summary of what happened. In fact my view on this was triggered by a conversation with you last fall on this.

    So for me this perhaps takes me back to witnessing. Would I love things to be different? Yup. And I probably have the skills to do it, but I notice that I can get very clingy about the results I want to see. In fact this was the real reason I left the Phorum - I was getting consumed by wanting to see things turn out a certain way and that is a place of deep ego. Plus, I noticed that I wasn't showing up in the world in a way I was proud of. So a little self-awareness about my own negative and fear based reactions caused me to come back.

    Now I think witnessing is where I am at. Watching, waiting, allowing, seeing what unfolds. It's not a place of disengagement - far from it. It feels more like watching from a distance and waiting to move. The way a heron fishes. Not to move too soon, and not to stab and tiny little fish when you know that you will really eat from the bigger ones. To be a little more hungry before feeding.

    The Phorum is like an all you can eat buffet. It is not a good place to be if you have an eating disorder. This is true of many public spaces. So perhaps we need more reflective on line spaces, which is why I have been retreating to this blog. It moves slower and I can explore here.

    At any rate, thanks.

    1. This leaving the place of conflict to work on issues of ego and clingy-ness is so necessary and important to articulate. Maybe we need a few more reflective in-person places too, in order to learn how to be with one another in a slower, more exploratory/open way. Room energy is sometimes difficult to decipher and pushes our buttons before we know they've been pushed. At least that's my experience.

  3. Most days there is no difference between my fear and a constricted, limited version of myself.